Hidden away on Glasgow’s St Vincent Street is King Tut’s Wah-Wah Hut, one of Scotland’s legendary and historic homes of live rock music. Arriving here on a grey Wednesday evening in March, I am struck by the extensive memorabilia of rock music adorning the walls of King Tut’s basement bar. Many great names have passed through the venue including Oasis who were first signed during the week they played here in the 1990s. Having driven across the Yorkshire Moors from Sheffield to commence their new tour, Rory Loveless from Drenge tells me that whilst rock ‘n’ roll may not be the ‘all-enveloping thing’ that it once was, it is still back as part of our seemingly endless selection of music in 2019.
“Mogwai because I love the volume,” Loveless replies, as I ask what his favourite Scottish band is. This comes as little surprise as the volume is something that Drenge use very effectively. Seeing them first at Glastonbury in 2015 I remember being struck by their ability to overwhelm crowds with exhilarating levels of noise emanating from powerful guitar riffs and heady levels of distortion. The same intensity of sound is ever-present in their new studio album, Strange Creatures and throughout their performance at King Tut’s. Loveless’ punky vocals are piercing and are essential to Drenge’s vivacious edge. They are deployed most convincingly in the title track and intermesh with a hauntingly eerie lead guitar hook to create suspense and a climactic album pinnacle. Eerie and macabre themes are Drenge’s forte and inform Strange Creature’s story-telling narrative.
Electronic production is a new addition to Drenge’s sound on Strange Creatures and adds a welcome layer of texture on top of their original garage-grunge harmony. Loveless tells me that it stems from giving their producer Ross Orton “more free rein to be part of the band with his background in the Sheffield electronic music scene.” I am told with a chuckle that Drenge will not be wearing dresses again during this tour – something that did not go unnoticed by Reading crowds back in 2014.
Whilst Drenge’s live performance was impressive and full of energy, I couldn’t help feeling that nothing genuinely new was being brought to the table. Their grunge aesthetic feels like a convincing northern British rendition of Nirvana and the new electronic production on Strange Creatures convincingly harks back to 80s synth-pop. Drenge’s derivation from past rock ‘n’ roll glory might exemplify why rock music today is not the trailblazing, all-conquering force that it once was.
Image: Pistenwolf via Wikimedia Commons